Under Des Moines County Attorney Lisa Schaefer's proposed budget, her department would increase in expenditures by 2.8 percent.

The bulk of this increase comes from increasing the salaries of the five assistant county attorneys.

"We need to be competitive," Schaefer said.

All non-union county employees are supposed to receive a two percent raise that will take effect at the start of the fiscal year. However, Schaefer's requested raises for her employees are much higher, between 5.5 and 12 percent.

After doing comparisons, Schaefer found most First Assistant County Attorneys in counties of comparable size make in the neighborhood of $100,000 while Schaefer's First Assistant, Todd Chelf, makes only $71,200. Schaefer would like to bring the number up to $82,000.

As for other assistant county attorneys, Schaefer said new law school graduates who take up positions as county attorneys make between $56,000 and $75,000. Schaefer's newest hire, Mike Brewer, has more than five years of experience and he is paid only $60,000. Under this new plan, he would see his pay increase to $65,000.

Two other attorneys who have been with the county for more than 4 years, Chris Scarborough and Erin Stensvaag, would see their salaries increase by $5,000 to an annual salary of $70,000. Ryan McCord, an employee who was hired in June and handles felony property crimes, would see his salary increase by $4,000 to an annual salary of $74,000.

Schaefer also is hoping to restart the student intern program. Under Iowa law, students who have passed their second year of law school can practice law under the supervision of a prosecuting attorney. Schaefer said she interned in Des Moines County through this program when she was a law student and after she graduated, she was hired by former County Attorney Pat Jackson.

Schaefer also would like to move to a new data management software. The first year of this software update would cost the county $70,000 and after that, there would be an additional $20,000 in maintenance cost. Schaefer said the current system is ten years old and does not communicate with the state system.

The new software also would allow the county to store evidence using an online storage system. This would greatly decrease the cost of burning DVDs or purchasing external hard drives for the purposes of storing evidence.

Schaefer managed to trim five percent of her base budget, largely because of decreased benefit plan costs due to not having to pay the cost of the family plan for a employee who is single. The decrease also includes small money saving measures such as working toward going paperless and using an online law library instead of having physical books.

However giving the attorneys raises and upgrading the software will eat up the savings and cause a 2.8 percent increase in overall budgeted expenditures.

In addition to the staffing and software items, Schaefer has a number of wish items that she said there is money sitting in the bank to pay for, she just needs board approval.

This money comes from the incentive fund. Schaefer explained Jackson said this fund is for wants, not needs. The fund has about $125,000 in it and Schaefer would like to spend $45,000 of it next year.

The bulk of the money, $25,000 would be for upgrades to the third floor courtroom.

"It's not just for us, it is also for anyone who uses the courtroom," She clarified.

The upgrade would install a television screen into the third floor courtroom in place of the projector screen and upgrade the audio system in the courtroom.

Schaefer said in almost every case there is some kind of visual evidence and often video evidence. When the aging projector works, the evidence is blurry and appears in worse quality. When technology refuses to cooperate, attorneys must use printed pictures which are smaller and jurors cannot continuously look at the photo throughout the testimony about the image.

On at least one occasion, Schaefer said she has been forced to recess court due of technical problems.

Schaefer also requested to spend $500 to replace the department cell phones in preparation for the roll out of 5G technology.

Schaefer also wants to spent $2,000 upgrade some of the furniture in her office.

Many, if not most, of the people coming into Schaefer's office are victims of or witnesses to crimes. For these individuals, she believes feeling comfortable while waiting in the lobby is important.

"We don't want it to feel like another police station," Schaefer said.

She added the current furniture can be difficult for victims with physical injuries to sit in and sometimes victims must wait for hours before they go to meet with the county attorney.

Furniture would also be upgraded in the conference room, which is where attorneys meet with victims and their families.